2011 Mercedes-Benz ML550 4Matic Review and More
THE AUTO PAGE
By John Heilig
Model: 2011 Mercedes-Benz ML550 4Matic
Engine: 5.5-liter V8
Horsepower/Torque: 382 hp @ 6,000 rpm/391 lb.-ft. @ 2,800-4,800 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic with manual mode
Wheelbase: 114.7 in.
Length x Width x Height: 188.2 x 76.3 x 71.5 in.
Cargo: 29.4/72.4 cu. Ft. (rear seat backs up/down)
Economy: 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway/14.2 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 25.1 gal.
Curb Weight: 4,795
Sticker: $70,175 (includes $875 destination and delivery, $225 heated steering wheel, $1,950 rear seat entertainment system, $6,050 P2 package, $1,780 leather seats, $965 lighting package, $720 exterior paint (verde brook))
The Bottom Line: The second (or is it third-?) -generation M-Class Mercedes-Benz may cost more than the original, but it still has the capability to do almost anything you’d want from a SUV and do it with traditional M-B class and style.
I remember back in the day when Mercedes-Benz introduced the original ML350 down in Birmingham, Alabama, near the Tuscaloosa factory. The introduction went as planned for the vehicle they bragged would have a list price of around $35,000, but the night before the journalists got to drive the ML, a violent rainstorm of near-hurricane proportions hit the area. So when we took the cars on the hillclimb and descent, the trail surface was deep mud. We were all impressed with how well the ML comported itself in these rotten conditions.
Fast forward to 2011. The ML550, now with a V8 rather than V6 engine, now costs $70,000. It’s still built in Birmingham and it still has all the capability you’d want from a sport utility.
My memory fails me, so I’m not exactly sure how many horses were under the ML350’s hood. The ML550 has 382, and they power all the wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission. If you want to shift it manually, there are paddle shifters behind the intelligent steering wheel.
Permanent all-wheel drive is a nice feature. You know that the ML550 won’t wander away if the weather gets gnarly. You still have the option of getting into 4WD low for serious off-roading.
When my wife got in the ML for the first time, she wondered what it was. Then she noticed the three-pointed star and said, “It figures.” The front seats offer great comfort, for example. They also offer “chicken bars” along the center console that are nice to have if the driver decides to try some “interesting” off-roads.
Handling is very good, especially considering the aspect ratio. The ML rides high, and the running board on the side is needed, especially if you’re getting on in years. Ride quality is very good, with essentially silent operation on the highway. Even road noise doesn’t intrude that much into the cabin.
In addition, there is excellent cargo capacity – 29.4 cubic feet normally and 72.4 when the rear seats are folded. The backs fold flat after you move the cushion into the footwell.
The new ML has an interesting grille treatment with “holes” in the chrome. These holes are repeated on the running board.
I’m still not thrilled with the standard M-B cruise control stalk. It’s located on the left side of the steering wheel, and even though it is a different thickness than the turn signal stalk, it’s still too easy to confuse the two. They’re just too close together.
Mercedes-Benz’s simplified gear lever also caused me trouble, although once I got into the learning curve I had less. With this stalk you push it up for reverse, down for drive and you push in the end for park.
One of the reasons for the high sticker price is the P2 option package that sets you back $6,050. This package includes auto-dimming mirrors; COMAND with navigation; iPod/MP3 cable; memory for the seat, wheel and mirrors; power liftgate; rear-view camera; SIRIUS radio; 4GB hard drive music register; 115-volt outlet; harmon/kardon sound system with LOGIC7; Dolby Digital 5.1; and keyless entry and start/stop.
Despite its price increase, the M-Class Mercedes-Benz is still one of the better SUVs on the market. The smaller-engined models begin at around $46,000, so you don’t have to hold up a convenience store to be able to afford one.
© 2011 The Auto Page